One good thing about July is the fact that fishing seasons are open for every species in Connecticut
waters, though species such as winter flounder and weakfish are pretty much non existent these days.
Mid summer, because all options are open is fun to target multiple species during a single trip. The challenge that we would set for our selves was to catch a few fluke off our favorite beach, then depending on how successful our “fluking” was, we might hit one of the reefs for some scup (porgy) to make up for any fillet shortage we may have. Then if there was enough time or the trip went towards dusk we would plug the Watch Hill Reef Complex or troll the south side of Fishers Island for striped bass and bluefish, hoping the blues would not tear our gear to shreds most of the time.
This itinerary made for a fairly long grueling day for some who are not fishing fanatics like
myself, my kids and a couple of long time fishingbuddies.
Generally if fishing with a non fishing nut, when they either began throwing up or squirming around, maybe not working their lure or bait it was trip termination time.
Over the years one of the pleasures and benefits of being an outdoor writer are the many,
many people I’ve met at seminars, launch ramps and at tackle stores. As a result, I have been able to go fishing with a couple of very hard core specialists over the years.
Not going to mention any names, but one guy whom I dubbed “The Fluke Meister” was a
fluke specialist of the first order. Soft spoken, humble and the best fluke fisherman I’ve ever had the pleasure of drifting the waves with.
His passion was evident from a prominent tattoo of a fluke on his fore arm with the inscription:
I considered myself a decent fluke catcher until I had the pleasure of actually spending a couple of days on the water with this guy. Our techniques were similar in one way but radically different in the second.
I used a rig I made up that was dubbed a “double fluke sandwich”.
Line tied to a three way swivel, with a six or eight inch heavy mono leader to a jig head that was baited with a couple strips of squid and a live or fresh caught minnow or mummichog, above
Mario’s Plastic Squid Strip.
The Idea being if the bait was stolen by scup or other small mouthed fish, the plastic would still be fishing with its tentacle like action with what ever scent was left behind from the baits.
Off the middle arm of the three way was a four or five feet long, slightly lighter leader material with a large streamer fly or even bare hook, baited with squid and minnow only.
This rig was dragged slowly along the bottom, while gently lifting up and over rocks that
may be encountered during a drift. During this process, point the rod tip towards the water.
When a fluke strikes, with its typical “tap-tap” bite, allow the drift to tighten the line before a
hard hook set in order to over come the friction and drag created by the slack line in the water.
This fairly “quick hook set technique very often results in a fluke solidly hooked in its upper jaw,
where escape is difficult, but hook removal relatively easy.
“The Meister” had a different method that worked even better.
He fished with a high low rig of heavy mono, with a large jig on the bottom with a jig
about half the size of the first tied a foot or so above. Rather than letting line out and dragging
the bottom, like the Fluke Sandwich rig. He would let the line out and vertically bounce the
rig by constantly lifting the set up and slowly lowering it back down, twitching the rod tip until
it touched bottom. This is a very labor intensive, but extremely effective method under all drift
speeds and is better in windy, bouncy water conditions.
That was a couple of decades ago, when I was younger, stronger and the arthritis that is a
nuisance these days hadn’t kicked in. The Meister was definitely without a doubt the best, most effective fluke catcher I’ve ever wet a line with and that includes a mutual friend Mario Tyrone, another excellent fluke fisherman who makes “Mario’s Plastic Squid strips” and at one point
jigs to go with them. I still use Mario’s plastic strips to this day when fluking and as teasers on
many lures including my large freshwater spinner baits that I cast for bass, pike and muskie.
Very often during this time of year people may be visiting whose last fishing trip was the last time they came to visit, or a friend at work who loves fishing, eating fish, but is not a skilled or hard core angler, but asks to go once a year during the summer.
The fluke fishing above requires a bit of finesse but is not that difficult for a novice to pick up relatively rapidly. The trick is teaching them how to detect when hooks have picked up sea weed, by the additional drag and lack of a crisp feel when feeling for that tap, tap bite. Tell them if they don’t feel a tap every so often reel in and check for junk, a tiny piece of garbage can keep a hook, fish free for hours.
The striped bass of that double dip trip noted earlier is or may be what the target species is from the start. Stripers are an omnivorous predator that literally eats everything from crabs and lobster off the bottom to large fish such as adult menhaden, mackerel, and snapper bluefish. The limitation is the size of the bait in relation to the stripers mouth. Lures, live, or frozen bait that’s not too nasty will all work, though large live baits are always preferable when targeting larger stripers or fish of any species for that matter.
Especially when fishing with rookie anglers the simplest, easiest method I know, that I use frequently myself because its so effective, but so easy its close to cheating is trolling tube and worm rigs.
Tubes range in size depending on who is assembling them but all are essentially some sort
of plastic tubing, with a swivel wired to one end with an eye exposed, a length of wire through the hollow fastened to a hook that extends maybe a hook length off the other. Add a sand worm, squid or even a plastic worm of some sort to the hook, so it lies flat and in line with the body of the lure and go fishing. They can be fished surprisingly close to the boat when running in rocks for safety sake, or way back when the bottom is relatively flat, maybe even sandy.
The key is using additional weight and boat handling to keep the tubes as close to the bottom and shore line rocks as possible at trolling speed. The size of ones boat is the variable here. Larger boats may choose to troll out in water from ten to fifty or more feet deep along the edges of large
reefs and out cropping. I’ve always owned smaller Aluminum Lund boats, with my 20 footer being the queen of my tiny fleet of versatile easily trailerable boats.
With this boat and the engine on full tilt so the prop barely catches the water (winds and waves allowing this to be done with out being washed up onto the beach or rocks) the boat is run as close to shore line boulders and rock beds as possible, in five to ten or maybe fifteen feet depending on the obstacles in the trolling path. Its not as crazy and stupid as it sounds, though my props always have some dings in them and I admit I’ve had to replace a few from multiple minor contact with rocks, but its worth it to me.
I can often pound the minor “touches” with a hammer myself, and sand or grind the bad spots
down, but be prepared to occasionally replace a propeller over the winter every few seasons. I
have a spare prop on hand all the time. Its the cost of operations in my opinion and worth it, or used to be for sure when stripers were far more abundant than they are these days. Bring along plenty of sand worms or baits for those exposed hooks because at this time of year everything from scup too small to become hooked to jumbo bass will take these rigs. If you know an area very well or have a propeller you do not like very much, run the areas you know in the dark at the proper tide and your catch will improve in both size and quantity.